Some events dealt with in the thirteenth volume of documents on Irish foreign policy feature in reports from RTÉ television in the 1960s.
The Documents on Irish Foreign Policy (DIFP) series is a partnership between the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Royal Irish Academy and the National Archives, and since 1998 it has published archival material on Ireland's foreign relations since 1919. Volume XIII covers the tumultuous era from April 1965 to June 1969. Like its predecessors, it contains a mixture of high-level correspondence, eyewitness reportage, and memoranda on a wide range of subjects. The documents published in the series cover a period that was being captured on RTÉ Television as well. In partnership with DIFP we have linked some documents that appear in the volume to stories broadcast on Irish television, as retained by RTÉ Archives.
Training cadets from Zambia, 1967
In 1967 the first of a number of cadets from the Zambian army arrived in Ireland for training with the Defence Forces.
'My Minister has, as you know, already expressed misgivings about the loaning of our officers in view of the political problems which could arise. He also feels, in relation to the overall principle of assistance in training the Zambian Army, that Britain, as the former administrating power, has a special responsibility in this regard and that therefore we should not become unnecessarily involved in what appears to be a British affair. He recognises, in this connection, however, that military training in Ireland would give rise to fewer problems than the dispatch of Army personnel to Zambia.’
Hugh McCann of the Department of External Affairs explains why it might be better for such training to take place in Ireland than in Zambia to Hugh Brady of the Department of Defence, 10 May 1965.
'Féach' 22 October 1967 - Zambian Cadets Arrive In Ireland
Aid for Biafra, 1968
The ‘Republic of Biafra’ came into being In May 1967, when Nigeria’s eastern province seceded and declared itself independent. The Nigerian-Biafran War loomed large in the eyes of the world from 1967 to 1970 and prompted a good deal of public sympathy, and official wariness, in Ireland.
‘Our official policy, as I understand it, is that all relief should be channelled through the Red Cross. Also it is not only Federal policy here but also the belief at the relief organisations, if only for practical reasons, that all aid should be co-ordinated by a central authority preferably the I.C.R.C. [Irish Committee of the Red Cross]. In this situation Mr. [John] O’Loughlin Kennedy’s group is definitely a maverick…
The fact that these two ships have been organised by Mr. O’Loughlin Kennedy in co-operation with his brother and Father Byrne make it inevitable, I fear, that they will be treated with the greatest reserve if not hostility by the Federal authorities. Indeed, one is sorry to see so much goodwill and energy going to waste because the misdirected zeal of the organizers inevitably is pushing it to a dead end. There also appears to me to be a certain element of a confidence trick in buying a vessel such as the ‘Columcille’ at the present time when the secessionists have no port available to them…
I doubt that should the captains of these vessels get in touch with me I will be able to be of much assistance to them. This must be known already to Mr. O’Loughlin Kennedy, but this will not prevent him from endeavouring to embarrass both the Government and me by an approach to this Embassy should the opportunity arise’.
Paul Keating of the Irish embassy in Lagos gives his view on the proposed provision of aid, 27 August 1968.
‘What the Federal authorities really object to are the basic organizers of the airlift. They do not I feel object to the distribution of food. Their complaint is against violators of their air territory and the organizers of hostile propaganda. Hence I would feel that Holy Ghost Fathers who are merely engaged in the distribution of supplies have nothing to fear. I would feel, however, that they would be more advised to rely on their cassocks than on Caritas badges for protection if they are overrun…
With regard to their anxiety about the gun running charges, we will do what we can should the story break here. My own feeling is that the Nigerian authorities are going to be much more intelligent and less hysterical about this matter than the rather stupid people in Dublin who ensured that it got so much publicity’.
Paul Keating reports on the views of the Nigerian authorities, and allegations that weapons shipments were being disguised as aid, 18 October 1968.
RTÉ News 26 August 1968 - Famine Relief in Biafra
The documents quoted above are retained in the National Archives, and are published in Documents on Irish Foreign Policy Vol. XIII, 1965-1969, published in November 2022. The documents published in the DIFP series for the period 1919-48 are freely accessible at www.difp.ie. Document images reproduced by permission of the Director of the National Archives.